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Skunk: A Life. Study Guide

Part One
    Chapter 1
  1. Where does the action in Chapter 1 take place? What is the mood?
  2. What is the social group of the characters?
    Chapter 2
  1. How old is Zoika?
  2. What is Zoika's attitude to her pregnancies? How did her previous pregnancies end? What is her attitude toward the present delivery?
  3. What's Daniil's patronymic? Why?
    Chapter 3
  1. What kind of care does Daniil get from his mother?
  2. "He was spared the usual penal Russian cocooning in swaddling clothes" What does this mean, and what's his mother's attitude toward this? Does it foretell anything about his character when he grows up?
  3. What is Daniil's grandmother's role in his upbringing?
  4. What is Zoika's relationship with her grandmother?
  5. What unique physical characteristics does Daniil have?
    Chapter 4
  1. What are Daniil's first religious experiences? Daniil memorized the Church Slavonic of the service, without attempting to understand the meaning of the words.
  2. Going to confession.
  3. Kissing of icons.
  4. What is the "sacred rock" and its legend? What is its religious function?
  5. About how old is Skunk when his grandmother dies?
    Chapter 5
  1. Where does Skunk's mother work? How does he spend the time there?
  2. What is Skunk's relationship with dogs? What might that indicate about his character at this stage in his life?
  3. How does he get along with other boys his age? Why?
  4. What kind of men does Zoika keep? How is Uncle Kolya different?
  5. Why does Skunk like him?
  6. How did Uncle Kolya die?
    Chapter 6
  1. At school Skunk is not an example pupil. What talents does he have?
  2. He doesn't have any friends. Why?
  3. Where does he like to spend time?
    Chapter 7
  1. Describe Skunk's first feelings and images of sexuality. In what way are these images unnatural?
  2. Skunk discovers a new game of picking pockets. Who are his first victims? Why?
  3. In what way is Skunk like an animal? Find specific vocabulary that describes him as such.
    Chapter 8
  1. About how old is Skunk at the beginning of this chapter?
  2. Describe Zhenka's character and personality.
  3. Youth gangs.
    Chapter 9
  1. Who is Moose? How does he show his authority?
  2. What attracts Skunk to Moose?
  3. What is Moose's lair?
  4. How does Skunk's opinion of Moose change?
    Chapter 10
  1. Why does Skunk kill Moose?
  2. How does he get Dove and Budgie arrested?
  3. What happens to Skunk and Zhenka after graduation?
    Chapter 11
  1. How does Skunk's mother treat him differently when she is ill, as opposed when she is well? Is there any motherly feeling in her toward Skunk?
  2. How are both treated by Vasya, Zoyka's new lover?
  3. How does the parka figure in Skunk's decision to leave his mother?
    Chapter 12
  1. Skunk seems to feel more at home out in nature. Provide some examples.
  2. How is his life and behavior like that of an animal. Provide some examples.
  3. How does he survive in the wild?
  4. Explain Skunk's mood and feelings as he watches a family prepare for a trip. Why do you think he envies them? What is the relationship among the family members like?
  5. When Skunk looks up at the family again, the scene changes. How? Do you think perhaps the first scene is only imaginary?
    Chapter 13
  1. Describe Skunk's mood at the beginning of this chapter.
  2. Keep in mind that he is a boy born and raised in a city. Why do you think he feels happier in this sort of place? How is the place idyllic?
    Chapter 14
  1. Skunk comes to a fishing camp. He sets up the place to his liking. How does he prepare for winter?
  2. Skunk has no experience in household chores. How is it, do you think, that he is so adept at surviving in nature? Read the long paragraph that starts at the bottom of page 54.
  3. The narrator says, "Everything in his environment became part of him." In what ways do you think this is the case?
  4. Read page 56 and explain how this world is different from the one Skunk came from in Stargorod.
  5. What is the meaning of Skunk's dream? How is it that it frightened him and relaxed him at the same time?
    Chapter 15
  1. Skunk begins to think that a hermit's life has it's drawbacks. What are some specific examples? What does he do to keep himself occupied?
  2. Memories of his other and Zhenka
    Chapter 16
  1. What does Vitaly do for living?
  2. What does Vitaly teach Skunk?
  3. Although there is big age difference between Skunk and Vitaly, they do get along with each other. Why do you think that is?
    Chapter 17
  1. How does the relationship between Skunk and Vitaly change?
  2. Does Vitaly treat Skunk a a man or as a boy?
  3. After the argument, as Skunk leaves he tells Vitaly "Thank you for your hospitality, your bread and salt." In old Russian, traditionally guests were received with an offering of bread and salt as a sign of hospitality.
    Chapter 18
  1. How does Vitaly change his attitude toward Skunk?
  2. What does Vitaly offer Skunk?
  3. Why does Skink refuse?
  4. What happens to Vitaly?
    Chapter 19
  1. Skunk hibernates. What is his mood like?
  2. What is the Russian north like in winter?
  3. Skunk experiences loneliness, sickness, and fear.
  4. Why do you think Skunk decides to ehad back to civilization?
Part Two
    Chapter 1
  1. What condition is Skunk's mother in at the beginning of this chapter?
    Chapter 2
  1. Skunk in this chapter is transformed into an adult. How is this shown in the story?
  2. Where does he work?
  3. How does his relationshipt with his mother change?
  4. How does he react when he sees Zhenka again?
  5. How do things go with Zhenka at the dance?
    Chapter 3
  1. Describe Valyusha. How is she different from Zhenka?
  2. Do you think he loves her, likes her,...?
    Chapter 4
  1. How are Skunk and Valyusa described as different in their character?
  2. How is he treated by other on the dance floor?
  3. Skunk compares himself to Moose? In what way does he say he is similar to him?
  4. Why does he get angry at Valyusa?
    Chapter 5
  1. Why, and how, does Valyusa break up with Skunk?
    Chapter 6
  1. At the beginning of this chapter Skunk begins to resemble what he was before he left for the forest. Provide some examples of this.
  2. Read this chapter carefully. It shows some unique Orthodox rituals at a cemetery.
  3. What's Skink doing at the cemetery?
  4. Grave with a bench and a glass to drink in the memory of the deceased.
  5. Description of the priest.
  6. Description of the service.
  7. Notes for the intercession of the dead, accompanied by money.
  8. Crossing.
  9. Censer and resin.
  10. Intercession for the dead.
  11. How does Skunk steal the money?
    Chapter 7
  1. At the bottom of page 98 Valyusa tells Skunk why she doesn't like him. What are some of the reasons. Do you think she is right?
  2. What kind of life is she looking for?
  3. What happens when he offers her the money?
    Chapter 8
  1. Where does Skunk go after the argument with Valyusha? Why do you think he goes there?
  2. Skunk compares the change in Valyusha to the change that he saw in the little girl in the village with the house he had stolen the shotgun from. Hpw are they similar?
  3. Skunk feels emptiness. What do you think is the cause?
  4. Skunk is sucking his thumb, as he did when he was a child. What do you think this means regarding his character and his mood?
  5. Who is Aunt Vera?
  6. Where do they meet?
    Chapter 9
  1. Describe the inside of the church.
  2. How does Aunt Vera venerate the icons?
  3. Notice how Skunk crosses jimself.
  4. What are the images on some of the icons?
  5. How does Aunt Vera express her faith?
  6. Why is she frightened of the icons? Which one frightens her the most?
  7. What is the restorer's attitude toward the icons?
    Chapter 10
  1. What extraordinary thing happens to Skunk in this chapter? What do you think is the meaning of the event?
  2. How do the women greet the priest Trifon when he enters the church?
  3. What is Skunk's confession all about? What do you think induces him to confess?
  4. Describe how he confesses.
  5. How does the pries respond? Why?
    Chapter 12
  1. Why does Skunk go back to the church?
    Chapter 13
  1. Why does Skunk go to father Boris's house?
  2. How does father Boris receive him?
  3. What is the debate between Seryozha (the icon restorer) and Father Boris all about?
  4. What do you think is the meaning of the proverb "until the thunder comes the peasant will not cross himself." What does it say abot the peasant's faith?
    Chapter 14
  1. What's father Boris's plan for Skunk?
  2. How does Skunk react?
    Chapter 15
  1. How would you describe Zoika's new lover?
  2. Why is Skunk's mother angry at him? What are some of the names she calls him?
    Chapter 16
  1. Why does Skunk run away again?
  2. Where is he headed?
Part Three
    Chapter 1
  1. Who are the passengers in the compartment travelling together with Skunk?
  2. Describe what happens in the carriage.
  3. What does Sunk give the seargant? Why do you think he does this?
    Chapters 2-6
  1. Where is Skunk headed after he gets off the train?
  2. What callamity takes place in the forest?
  3. How does the elk help Skunk?
  4. What is unusual about the elk's behavior?
  5. How does Skunk get saved by the monk?
  1. What is the relationship between the monk and the forest animals like?
  2. Describe the little chapel and the service in which Skunk
  3. Skunk's cofession.
  4. How do Skunk and the monk relate with each other? How are they similar
  5. Skunk's attitude toward the monk with his attitude toward father Boris.
  6. Why did father Innokenty decide to become a monk?
  7. What is the "Sunday of mutual forgiveness" holiday?
  8. How did the monk end up in the forest?
    Chapter 9
  1. What parallels does the monk see between nature and religion?
  2. Old Believers. Their religion and practices.
  3. Story of the man who killed a priest and became a pries himself. What does it say about the Russian attitude toward religion?
    Chapter 10
  1. What happened to father Innokenty?
  2. I Skunk's experience in the forest with the monk real, or not? Why?
    Chapter 11
  1. What does Skunk find out about his mom when he returns home?
    1. How does Skunk's meeting with Zhenka go?
    Chapter 12
  1. What do we learn about Zhenka's husband? Is it expected? Unexpected?
  2. What does Skunk learn about Valyusha? Is it expected? Unexpected?
    Chapter 13
  1. Where does Skunk go after is encounter with Zhenka?
  2. What mirracle takes place there?
  1. Where does Skunk finally settle? Why do you think he has chosen that place?
  2. How do people refer to him?
  3. Do you think there is any surprise in how the novel ends?